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Phage Therapy

April 20, 2015

My last blog was about using bacteriophages to treat multi-drug resistant bacteria or superbugs. Phage therapy has been around since the turn of the 20th century. Phage therapy uses genetically engineered viruses to attack specific strains of bacteria. The phage (the name means to eat) was used right at the turn of the century successfully to treat some infections that were progressing towards being fatal. Initially much of this work was not adequately documented and American Researchers in the 1930s and 1940s thought more studies needed to be done. Much of the work was continued in Russia and today there is a successful Phage Therapy Center located in the Republic of Georgia.

 

Work which should probably have continued on in the United States pretty much came to an end as this was also the time period when antibiotics were making their debut. The excitement of medications which could kill bacteria pretty much overshadowed the phage therapy and antibiotics took center stage. It is not too hard a stretch to guess that financial considerations were behind most of these decisions.

 

Now with overuse of antibiotics we have had a progressive growth in the numbers of bacteria that are difficult or sometimes impossible to treat. These are termed antibiotic resistant. It would seem that phage therapy being able to single out a single type of bacteria would make sense. It does not kill off all the other bacteria in our bodies that are desirable. These bacteria are called our normal flora and live throughout our body by the millions and contribute to our health. Because of this preservation of the good bacteria we need for our health and well-being there is less chance for the development of an untreatable bacterial strain. Clostridium Difficile with its sometimes malignant and untreatable diarrhea is one example of this.

 

Perhaps it is time for researchers and big pharma in the United States to look at antibiotic alternatives as we now seem to be entering the post antibiotic era.

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